As a senior in college, Brent Lacey had already been accepted to medical school, and he was scheduled to start in the fall. But he didn’t know what kind of medicine to practice, or how to put his forthcoming education to best use.
“I really felt like I just needed some direction.”
So he drove to Yellowstone National Park and spent a week praying and meditating on his own. The time left him feeling “like I was being called into military service,” something that surprised Brent. No one in his family is military, and he hadn’t considered this path at all before that point.
He felt a strong calling, so he called up some recruiters, who told him the Navy was desperately in need of people.
A Navy scholarship supported him through medical school at the University of Texas in San Antonio. After that he did his internal medicine and gastroenterology training through the Navy in San Diego, followed by tours in Florida and North Carolina.
“And, now it’s 15 years later, and here I am.”
Brent’s time as a Navy doctor—a gastroenterologist for adults, to be precise—has been “incredibly rewarding,” but a job offer at a private practice in Texas means his service time is coming to a close this summer.
It’s the start of a whole new chapter for Brent and his family—but it’s not the only thing that’s taking his life in exciting directions.
From Discipleship to Entrepreneurship
Brent’s business began as a ministry at his church, where he taught classes based on Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University. After a couple of years, Brent realized there was a huge need for financial literacy in the community, so he created a “financial discipleship” program and started doing one-on-one financial coaching—all for free.
Then, nurses and doctors at the hospital where he worked started asking Brent for help with their finances. “I started getting the same questions over and over and over again. And I thought to myself, it would be nice if I had something written down somewhere where I could just point someone to.”
In mid-2019, Brent decided that a blog would be a great way to tackle that objective, but he didn’t know where to start. And so, a humble Google search: how do you start a blog?
That led him to a lot of different resources, including SPI. He pored over the materials, reading blogs and listening to podcast episodes. “I think I went back and binge listened to something like half of the Smart Passive Income [Podcast] episodes, starting with episode 1.”
Thankfully, Brent had always been a writer, so he knew what it took to churn out a decent blog post. But he wanted to make sure his idea was viable before committing a lot of time or money to it, so in May 2019 he took Pat’s Build Your Own Brand (BYOB) course.
He decided to write twenty-five blog posts as a test, “because if I can't get through at least one a week, then it's not worth it.” He finished all twenty-five in just six weeks.
“Okay, this is fun,” he thought. So he took the next steps: registered a domain, set up a basic WordPress site, and launched his blog, named The Scope of Practice, in October.
The blog began with a “financial discipleship” focus—a highly saturated space that includes huge names like Dave Ramsey and Suze Orman. Brent realized “it was going to be hard to compete… at least at the outset.”
“But maybe I can make myself really valuable to a smaller group,” Brent thought. “Like Pat always says, ‘The riches are in the niches.’”
“And the medical world, the healthcare field seems like a pretty logical place to start.”
Refining the Niche
With more research, Brent saw that there were only a few people writing, podcasting, and speaking about personal finances in the medical space. He estimates that the number of entrepreneurs focused on this niche is fewer than one hundred, and probably somewhere between sixty and eighty.
Brent knew from Pat’s guidance that it was possible to have a thriving business with a small but dedicated following. So he set out to build one by focusing on the Venn diagram intersection of business and personal finance mastery for physicians.
Adding a business management component seemed like a great way to distinguish himself from the other personal finance “gurus” out there—especially because it’s something physicians generally are not very good at.
“They go through medical school or dental school and they're really great at their craft at the end. But all of a sudden, they're a small business owner and they've been trained for that not at all.”
Focusing on business management and financial mastery allows Brent to connect and work with people who need help in one or both of those areas—and sometimes even assist them beyond the scope of their original need.
“If there's someone who wants to know more about leadership, and practice management and things like that, then I can offer that—plus the personal finance arm. And the same thing if people are coming for personal finance: I can pivot that and say, ‘Well, a lot of people have trouble with business, too.’”
Another thing Brent did at the outset was start his email list. “One of the biggest regrets that I heard from people who started online businesses is that they wish they had started their email list a lot sooner. And so I did that right out of the gate.”
He has an “active” list of about 700 people right now, which he’s grown through a combination of guest posts and podcast appearances. In the process, he’s gotten to know a lot of the other bloggers and podcasters in his field.
One of the things he’s grown to appreciate about this community is “everybody's really looking to help other people. Everyone's sort of in competition with each other. But only sort of—I mean, everybody's really willing to help out.”
A Podcast of His Own
Once the blog was humming, Brent began to branch out, launching a few small promotions to widen his audience. He also accepted several invitations to join people’s podcasts “and realized that I really enjoyed it a lot. It’s way more fun than just sitting down and banging out a blog post.”
So, he thought, why not start his own podcast?
He took the Power-Up Podcasting course in February and March 2020, and then in mid-March he set a launch date of May 18. He would use the time in between to record a backlog of episodes.
With a few episodes in the tank, the COVID-19 shutdown hit. With no one scheduling elective procedures in the hospital, Brent suddenly had a lot of time on his hands. He decided he would use it to record as many episodes as possible.
“All of a sudden I felt like I had license to just start reaching out to folks.” He started emailing other physician personal finance bloggers with decent followings and asking if they’d join him on the podcast in exchange for promoting their stuff.
“And they were all very happy to do that,” says Brent. But he started to wonder, what would happen if he upped the ante? He went through the archives of the leadership and business podcasts he’d been listening to for several years and picked out his favorite twenty-five episodes from each one. He wrote down the names of the guests on those episodes, and reached out to them.
“I was amazed at the kinds of people that said yes.” They included presentation design expert Nancy Duarte, whose TED talk has millions of views, Ken Coleman, whose show is a top 10 business podcast, JJ Peterson, the chief of teaching and facilitation at StoryBrand, and Scott Parazynski, a physician and former astronaut who’s also climbed Mount Everest.
All for a podcast that hadn’t even launched yet.
Brent points out that he did have a lot of proof to share with potential interviewees, including his email list and his Facebook and LinkedIn followings. But beyond that, when people ask Brent how he’s landed all these guests, he says, “I just asked straight up. That was it. I just asked.”
“I'm nobody from nowhere. I'm just reaching out. I couldn't believe it,” he says.
“I’ve gotten plenty of ‘no’s—don't get me wrong. And plenty of people that have just not responded. But hey, if you send out seventy-five emails and you get nine back, then all of a sudden you have a world-class lineup.”
After just one week post-launch, The Scope of Practice Podcast was up to 1,161 downloads, and had climbed to the #1 medical career podcast and the #33 career-related podcast nationally. Brent’s email list grew 15 percent over the same period, and he already has people asking him to coach them on how to start their own podcasts and build their own websites.
Building His Own Brand, With a Little Outside Help
Brent hasn’t tried to monetize his business yet, instead focusing on building his blog audience and getting his podcast off the ground. He’s more interested in “gaining a level of credibility, building some trust with folks first, and figuring out what people actually want before I just try to start randomly selling stuff.”
But even once The Scope of Practice starts generating income, Brent is pretty sure he wants to keep it as largely a side hustle. “I don't see this as being something that replaces my primary income, chiefly because I don't want to give up being a physician. I can't imagine—even if I built this thing up to be something super huge—not being able to take care of patients. I love it too much.”
Instead, he’s happy using his platform to reach as many people who need help as possible, and at least break even with the venture—“so it’s not just a super expensive hobby.”
He hasn’t hired anyone to help with the business yet, except for a web designer—and for that, he also has to thank Pat's BYOB course.
BYOB gave Brent something really valuable: “a framework of how to get started. Because it just seemed like such a gargantuan task.” Every question he encountered generated three more, and BYOB helped him pull back from the rabbit hole. The course provided a “nice step-by-step walkthrough of how to take an idea from scratch and then create something from that.”
BYOB also prepared Brent for how much work it would take to create a well-designed, functional website. After briefly trying to put one together by himself, he decided that his limited time would be better spent on the things he was best at: “content creation and writing and speaking and things like that.” Instead, he hired someone else to design the site for him, which was “super helpful” and a huge weight off his shoulders.
So far, that web designer is the only person Brent has hired to help with The Scope of Practice. Once his podcast starts bringing in some sponsorships, he might consider hiring a virtual assistant who can take on administrative tasks so he has more time to write, but right now his business is a one-man show.
He’s started building some affiliate marketing relationships that he’ll lean on “once the podcast gets rolling a little bit. But he’s been operating on a small enough budget that he can wait a while before monetizing, and focus on building trust and credibility with his audience first.
When it comes to the brand itself, from the beginning, Brent says he “wanted to build a brand that would be bigger than just me.” That’s why his business is called The Scope of Practice and not BrentLacey.com. Having a brand that’s not tied to him personally means it’s one that “is more able to absorb other folks, or other avenues to reach people.”
At the same time, the whole experience has “opened up some cool doors. I've gotten to meet a lot of different people. And I’ve been invited to speak at a couple of conferences.”
Brent says he could see himself doing that once or twice a year and really enjoying it.
“The Truth Is, There’s Always a Need”
Besides giving him more free time to line up podcast guests and record his pre-launch episodes, how has the COVID situation affected Brent and his business? For one, it’s shown him “that the world is going to go increasingly online, and so having an online presence, having an online brand, or through the airwaves with podcasting, is going to be increasingly important.”
He believes that we’ll start seeing the “ripple effects” of things going digital in a number of industries, including healthcare, food service, and education.
Ultimately, he says, “It’s just reinforced my resolve to press forward with the venture.”
The pandemic has, in Brent’s eyes, also amplified the state of personal financial management among his target audience. “This particular crisis has exposed some weaknesses in financial plans for individual people. This happens every time there's a crisis, even if it’s a minor one. But the truth is, it's going on even when there's not a crisis.”
“I think it has brought more people out of the woodwork to realize that they just need some help. But the truth is, there's always a need.”
Purpose, Preparation, Execution
The biggest challenge he’s encountered along the way is “seeing the sheer amount of work that it takes to get something like this moving. There's a very high activation energy.”
Although he says he “prepared for it reasonably well, just from listening to podcasts and reading what people had said,” he was still amazed at what it took to get his business off the ground.
At the same time, his desire to serve propels him onward. “I feel a tremendous—I don't know if burden's the right word—but a sense of urgency to help people. I just see a lot of need. And so, every time someone reaches out and says, ‘Hey, listen, I need some help,’ that kind of drives me forward.”
Having the support of his wife has also been tremendously valuable. “I don't think I could do this if I didn't have good family support at home. She's always been my greatest cheerleader.”
Although Brent has been on his entrepreneurial journey for less than a year, he’s gleaned three big insights that he thinks others can learn from:
#1: Have a Why
“Don't just say, ‘I want to be an entrepreneur.’ You need to have a problem that you're solving or someone that you're trying to help, or a group of people you want to serve. You need to have something that you're aiming for. Not just, ‘I want to have a small business,’ or ‘I like the idea of passive income. That sounds neat.’ You need a purpose.”
“I listened to a bunch of podcasts from different folks, including Pat’s. I read through a lot of tutorials. I read a lot of blogs. I learned a lot about the medium that I was going into.”
“So often what I've seen and heard people say again and again on podcast episodes is, people just spend all their time preparing and preparing and preparing and never actually do anything. I think of the quote from General Patton that says, ‘A good plan, violently executed now, is better than a perfect plan next week.’”
Brent Lacey is a gastroenterologist who also runs The Scope of Practice, an online business that serves physicians in the areas of practice management and financial mastery. He grew up in the Dallas, Texas, area, went to Texas A&M University for college, and then medical school in San Antonio, where he met his wife. His wider family still lives in the Dallas area, and his wife's family hails from Austin.
Brent is also an avid mini-golfer who’s played the US ProMiniGolf Association’s Master’s course in Myrtle Beach, SC, along with roughly ninety other courses. His real dream is to someday own his own mini-golf course.